The Health Benefits of Living Without Furniture
As if waking up from a spell, I gradually began to see how so much of our modern way of living is not in harmony with Mother Nature and thus our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being. One of the biggest realization I had was the impact of furniture on our health. I remember as a child that sitting on the floor was such a natural thing for me. The adults around me even expected children to naturally sit and play on the floor, so much that the ability to sit and get up from the floor was commonly associated with youth and vitality. In fact, Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote an article about the Sitting-Rising Test which shows that those who have difficulty rising from sitting on the floor without any props (no hands on knees or floor, etc.), are 6.5 times more likely to die in the next six years, regardless of their age (ages of the participants in the study were between 50-81 years old) or the time it took them to stand, than a person who has no problem performing this test (Nelson, 2013). This means that a person who can easily rise from sitting is 6.5 times more likely to live in the next six years than someone who struggles to do this. Dr. Mercola’s article confirmed my suspicions about furniture such as chairs, sofas, and raised beds and I decided to sell almost all my furniture including my dining table, chairs, sofas, desks, bed frames and foundations — anything that was high off the ground and did not allow me to sit on the floor or be close to the floor. The only pieces of furniture I kept were some thin 5″ mattresses that we now use on the floor, some low laptop computer stands that you can sit on the floor with, two small outdoor wood coffee tables to use as a low dining table so we can sit on the floor with, and some bookshelves for storage and organization. Our house is nice and empty now and I love what our family has experienced in just one month of living without virtually any furniture.
1) Improved Bowel Movements
Having more regular and easier bowel movements was not too surprising to me because I knew from my personal experience and private practice as a Holistic Health Practitioner and Life/Health/Spiritual Coach that doing squats was an excellent exercise for not only toning and flexing your leg muscles and joints, but also your abdominal, back, and perineum, colon and rectal muscles. Sitting on the floor forces you to do many squats each day as you sit down and get up off the floor throughout the day through your daily work or family routine.
2) Improved Energy Levels & Sleep
I have to admit that this was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me because I was already experiencing great levels of energy and regularly slept well so I did not expect to experience even greater levels of energy and even deeper levels of sleep. After meditating on why this happened, I discovered that when I sat on the floor, I naturally sat in a cross-legged position which is the exact position I am in while I am meditating. The very act of being in this position while working on my computer or eating automatically put me in a meditative state so I was meditating without even realizing I was meditating. As a result, I ended up experiencing longer periods of relaxed meditation during my daily activities. Meditation has been well documented to improve energy levels and sleep (see my article titled The Power of Silence for more information).
3) Improved Posture & Prevent Back Pain
Another wonderful benefit of sitting cross-legged on the floor is that it naturally forces you to straighten your spine otherwise, you will lose balance or feel a little unstable because your legs and knees are folded closer to your chest so to balance that hinge at the hips, you straighten out your spine more which leads to better posture in the sitting position. It’s also interesting to see that over time, the better posture that I naturally adopted in the sitting cross-legged position actually transferred to better posture when I stand because I noticed that sitting cross-legged for longer periods of time than what I was use to before actually forced me to work out my lower back (lumbar) and abdominal muscles that became weak and flaccid after many years of sitting on a chair, couch, or high mattress. With stronger back and abdominal muscles I was better able to naturally sustain good posture while standing as well.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor is also a great way to prevent or recover from back pain/injuries and herniated discs. Excessive sitting on a chair can cripple your posture and contribute to back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel, and many other physical structural problems. Numerous studies show that regularly sitting on chairs or couches for long periods of time can shorten your lifespan, even if you exercise. This is because sitting on a chair encourages you to bend your spine instead of hinging at the hips which can lead to all kinds of back problems and structural abnormalities leading to a predictable skeletal, muscle, ligament, joints and cartilage degeneration pattern which almost always starts with back pain (Mercola, 1/11/2013).
I have to warn you though, it took me about a week of sore muscles to develop my back and ab muscles to the point where they do not get sore anymore (and I consider myself a health nut who takes pride in taking good care of herself). What you don’t use, you lose when it comes to muscles so don’t give up. Take time to recover if you need to, but immediately go back to the new way of living to continue to exercise and use those muscles. The benefits are so worth it. See Do You Have to Sit Cross-Legged to Meditate? by Rodney Yee for some good tips and photos on different ways to sit on the floor or transitional ways of sitting to help you ease into the cross-legged position.
4) Improved Flexibility
Yoga is well-known for its ability to increase your range of motion and joint and muscle flexibility and sitting in the cross-legged Lotus Pose (Padmasana) is probably the most well-known yoga pose. Traditional yogic texts claim that Padmasana destroys all disease and awakens kundalini (a dormant spiritual energy residing at the base of the spine that can be awakened through meditation, yoga or Divine Openings). Consistent practice of this pose is said to help ease the pains of childbirth, ease menstrual discomfort and sciatica, calm the brain, increase awareness and attentiveness, keep the spine straight helping to develop good posture, keep joints and ligaments flexible, stimulate the spine, pelvis, abdomen, and bladder, and restore energy levels.
Since Padmasana is considered an intermediate to advance yoga pose, it is best for beginners to sit in a normal cross-legged position (Easy Pose or Sukhasana) on the floor. Simply sitting in a normal cross-legged position forces you to stretch open your hips, inner and outer thighs, knees, hamstrings, shins, ankles, spine and abdomen. If a normal cross-leg position is difficult for you (or you get tired of being in a cross-legged position), also try Staff Pose (Dandasana), Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana), Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana), and Hero Pose (Virasana), and then alternate between all of them. For those who do not practice yoga regularly and eat nightshade plants (e.g., tomatoes, chili peppers, bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, Goji berries, ashwagandha), it will take longer for you to develop this flexibility because nightshades are very high in calcitriol which is known to calcify (harden) soft tissues. In this case, sit in the different yoga poses listed above for shorter periods of time but more frequently to counteract the calcification of your muscles and ligaments. Also, consider cutting out or significantly reducing nightshades in your diet. See my Carbohydrates article to learn more about nightshades.
5) Improved Sexual Energy
This was another unexpected but pleasant surprise because I always considered myself to have healthy levels of sexual energy, but discovered that the levels actually increased even more during this period of living without furniture leading to even more hours of marital bliss☺. Part of the the reason for increased sexual energy is the increased energy levels and deeper sleep mentioned earlier. Another reason is that there is naturally more blood and lymph circulation to the genital area in the cross-legged position because the legs are raised up to hip level and the legs and genitalia (including the perineum and anus) are spread open. Compare this to when your legs and feet are on the floor in a chair sitting position, the genital area is usually closed and the blood and lymph drains more to the feet rather than up to your genital or heart region. The genital area is also more in contact with the floor or cushion as well as your heels if they are close enough to your genitals when you sit cross-legged.
6) Improved Mental Clarity & Emotional Stability
I was also surprised at how much clearer my thinking became and I became even more confident, secure, and centered even though I had considered myself already above average in these areas before. This shows that no matter how good you think you have it currently, there is actually no limit to how high you can go and you won’t know that there are higher states until you are actually there to appreciate the before and after contrast. In other words, there is absolutely no limit to our potential. The improved mental intelligence and emotional well-being is a well-known by-product of meditation and sitting cross-legged on the floor seems to trigger a meditative state in me. Energetically, the cross-legged position actually circulates life force energy more effectively, efficiently, evenly and thoroughly throughout the body, almost like in a closed loop, not letting valuable life-force energy to escape. This also prevents foreign energy from invading our space and allows us to more easily control our own energy and direct it to where we want to, hence the improved cognition and flow of emotional energy. Eating in a cross-legged position has also been found to prevent over-eating as people find themselves more able to control themselves in this position due to the mental calmness and soothed frazzled nerves they experience in this sitting position. This makes sense since stress is the number one reason why people overeat.
7) Feel Closer to Mother Earth – Spiritually Grounded
Since the cross-legged position opens our root chakra (an energy vortex located at the base of our spine) more than usual, it will allow the powerful energy of Mother Earth to ground us through our root chakra (if we are sitting on the floor on the first floor). This grounding or Earthing is probably one of the most important health secrets ever not only for emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, but also for radiant physical health. Mother Earth is known to emit or be a source of abundant free electrons that are absorbed even more quickly and abundantly through bare feet on the soil, sand, water or dewy grass. These free electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man that can cause beneficial changes in heart rate, decrease inflammation, reduce pain, promote healthy sleep, and thin your blood, making it less viscous to prevent or reverse cardiovascular disease (see Caution: Wearing These Can Sabotage Your Health to learn more about Earthing).
On a spiritual or metaphysical level, being connected to Mother Earth through our root chakra gives us that sense of connection with our Divine Mother and Father (God), Nature and all sentient beings that we all are longing for. Feelings of disconnectedness, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, despair, depression, hopelessness, abandonment, feeling off-centered, lost or insignificant are a result of our lack of groundedness or energetic connection to Mother Earth and all that she represents. The closer contact with Mother Earth is known to be highly beneficial according to the yogic and metaphysical traditions because the powerful, healing energy of Mother Earth can enter directly through your root chakra and up through the sacral and all the other chakras for a wonderful cleansing and balancing of your subtle bodies. See my Yoga: Union With the Divine article to learn more about the chakra system.
8) Less Clutter, Less Maintenance, Less Stress
I did not realize how much time I spent cleaning and maintaining furniture until it was gone. I even remember those numerous times I would ask my children to please be careful around the furniture so they would not get hurt and so they would not destroy the furniture. I also realized that the more space I had, the more I felt I needed to fill it up for some reason. Now my children love the vast amounts of space we have now and how they can freely enjoy spinning on the floor, do cartwheels or fly paper airplanes all around our rooms. It was as if we have broken out of a prison of furniture that limited our space and movement and made us be more cautious around them. Less clutter, less maintenance, less worries, less attachments, and less stress equals more freedom and happy times.
When I was trying to price my furniture to sell, I was forced to look at all the furniture receipts to see how much I paid for them and I was shocked at how much money I had spent on just furniture alone: a whopping $50,000 just to furnish a four bedroom house with a dining room, den, family room, living room, backyard, sideyard and frontyard. Most of the furniture was made out of wood, so imagine how many trees would have been saved if we all reduced our need for furniture. More living trees equals more carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere (sequestration) and more clean, oxygen-rich, fresh air. A win-win for all of us.